Archive for February, 2014


That’s one of my favourite words right there.  Indeed, I can be frustratingly optimistic sometimes, perhaps in danger of people thinking I may not be grasping the full gravitas of a situation.  I can assure you that this is never the case. I just try to find my way to the see the doughnut, and not the hole.  That probably says a lot about me and my preference for all things baked…

Anyhow, last Saturday (8th February) I had a superb afternoon in the company of some seriously impressive people from the world of science research, thanks to Professor Kate Cooper of the New Optimists.  The purpose of the event was to allow scientists from many different backgrounds to come together and discuss, well, anything…and see what themes, ideas and collaborations may emerge over time. Kate has written a wonderful blog about the event, and a similar one a few days before, here.  From my part it was a great chance to engage with scientists from completely different backgrounds and disciplines, whilst constantly thinking about the potential ways our skill sets may be able to combine to tackle the same aim.  It is rare to be at an event so “open” to thinking across boundaries, and it certainly helped me think about lots of my current research targets differently.  I absolutely loved the free flowing nature of the discussions held, although it will take a memory better than mine to explain how we got from bats to avocados….

This may be one of those rare occasions where the brilliant conversation you often seem to have down the pub, or over coffee, or in the car on the way to work, could actually lead somewhere…!   

Always the doughnut...!

Always the doughnut…!

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At the end of last month (January 31st) I had a wonderful time at my first IPS Audit and Surveillance SIG meeting, held in Birmingham.  I had the honour of being a guest speaker at their annual conference last year, held in collaboration with the IPS Ambulance Forum. This was my first “real” meeting though, and I have to admit my recent identity crisis had left me feeling a bit daunted…Would I really be welcome at a meeting of Infection Prevention professionals?

Great start to meeting!

Great start to meeting!

Fortunately, the IPS community spirit was as much in evidence at the meeting in Birmingham as I have found it to be at their national conferences.  Within seconds of entering the room I was made to feel welcome (the bacon roll definitely helped!!), and throughout the meeting and discussions over lunch I felt completely at ease.   I very much enjoyed hearing the group discuss the QIT tools, something I’d like to look at going forwards. Similarly there was great discussion about the potential for a network/directory/porthole/vault (I don’t think we ever hit on the correct word!) function on the Audit and Surveillance webpage. Such a tool would have really helped when I was carrying out my PhD research, and would certainly benefit anyone carrying out research within the measurement of infection prevention going forwards.  Three wonderful speakers contributed to the day, I’m sure copies of their presentations/details of their work are available from the groupFor me, it was a great opportunity to hear about other research going on outside of my specific focus, and also to consider further development of my research theme “meaningful data”.   

Here is just a summary of my thoughts and ideas generated during the speaker presentations:

During Lilian Chiewera’s engaging presentation “Does Post Discharge Telephone Surveys improve the accuracy of existing Caesarean Section SSI surveillance at local level” I was really interested to hear the familiar theme of “feedback” raised, in relation to research data collection.  During her research Lilian found that a key way of getting/increasing/maintaining support and collaboration from staff, required to contribute key surveillance data, was to ensure that everyone involved was informed about what the data was for, how it was to be used, and what the results of the surveillance were. In other words, she worked towards ensuring that the surveillance data would have meaning to those involved in the process.  By sharing information about the reasons for data collection with healthcare professionals, Lilian found that engagement with future data collection sessions was improved.   I was also delighted to hear her talk about the concept of “data” being only a number, and that too much focus on figures can lead to a loss of sight of the greater context.  As Lilian noted, even one infection, if it could have been prevented, is one too many.

Carole Hallam gave an enthusiastic presentation from which I also extracted themes of stakeholder engagement: here she stressed the need to communicate the need for standardised documentation, and how sometimes, perseverance was the key to “cracking” the hard job of engaging some clinical units in surveillance research.    Interestingly, she also hit on the concept of “using your instincts” whilst working within the rigorous area of surveillance data.   If something looks wrong, for example if infection rates seem too low, follow your gut!  There could be a simple calculation mistake, but similarly there could be a mistake in the whole data collection processes.  Don’t just report a figure if you don’t believe it.  

The way I see it is if you collect the data, and you understand the data, the data is meaningful to you. So use that meaning!     Now obviously I understand that this may sound idealistic, and additional investigation may be resource intensive…but ensuring that collected data is accurate is fundamental to the purpose of surveillance. Process redesign, or necessary recalculations are unlikely to be as disruptive as ploughing along regardless, and never actually understanding the true picture.

The final speaker of the day, Jane McNeish highlighted how meaningful data could be critical in future interventions extending out of the acute setting, and into care homes.  In her presentation, discussing Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) she highlighted that if time and thought is going to be put into designing surveillance tools, and indeed pathways and protocols,  then wider issues than simply being evidence-based may be crucial. For example, focus must surely be placed on how the information contained in the intervention is received by those who can deliver it?  Do carers understand carefully constructed tools? Does the data the tool produces mean anything to the staff, family or Patient it has been designed to help? What additional information, training or support is needed to ensure that tools are used, correctly, to improve Patient safety?

I look forward to seeing where the Audit and Surveillance group heads, and what comes of many of the discussions held on that very rainy day in Birmingham.  It has definitely helped me put context around how I could develop my work going forwards, and certainly encouraged me to attend future IPS meetings.

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